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Coronavirus: EU helps Nepal to tackle infections surge

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Nepal has requested EU assistance to help contain the explosion in COVID-19 cases. In response, the EU has mobilised an initial €2 million in humanitarian funding, which will support:

  • monitoring of all home isolated cases through tele-health / tele-medicine services and rapid referral to hospitals
  • national emergency medical teams deployment and international emergency medical teams mobilisation facilitation
  • procure COVID-19 equipment and supplies in Nepal.

Key equipment and supplies will include oxygen equipment including oxygen gas cylinders, oxygen concentrators, home care kits, diagnostics including antigen test kits; personal protection equipment.

Nepal has also activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Finland is the first Member State to offer more than 2 million surgical facemasks, 350,000 FFP2 masks, 52,500 pairs of vinyl gloves and 30,000 isolation gowns.

Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, said: “The COVID-19 surge in Nepal is claiming more lives every minute as it spreads across the country. We stand in full solidarity with Nepal in its fight against the pandemic. We are quickly mobilising emergency support with initial €2 million funding. I am very thankful to Finland for their quick offers of assistance via our Civil Protection Mechanism. We stand ready to provide further assistance.”

The European Union’s 24/7 Emergency Response Coordination Centre is in regular contact with the Nepalese authorities to closely monitor the situation and channel the EU assistance. 
 

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Sahel and Central Africa: €210 million in EU humanitarian aid

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The EU is reaffirming its solidarity with vulnerable people in countries in the Sahel and Central Africa through a humanitarian budget of €210 million in 2021.

The funding will be allocated to humanitarian projects in the following 8 countries: Burkina Faso (€24.3 million), Cameroon (€17.5 million), the Central African Republic (€21.5 million), Chad (€35.5 million) Mali (€31.9 million), Mauritania (€10 million), Niger (€32.3 million), and Nigeria (€37 million).

Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, said: “Worsening instability and armed conflicts, together with the COVID-19 pandemic and natural hazards, are having a devastating impact in the Sahel and countries in Central Africa. The EU remains committed to helping reduce suffering among people in need in the region. While humanitarian aid is there to bring emergency relief, longer-lasting improvements can only be brought about through the political will of national governments and good governance.”

The EU’s humanitarian funding in the Sahel and Central Africa countries is targeted to:

  • provide life-saving assistance to the people affected by conflict and to the communities hosting people who had to flee
  • provide protection to vulnerable people and support the respect of International Humanitarian Law and the humanitarian principles
  • support measures to address food crises and severe acute malnutrition among children under 5
  • enhance the immediate response in terms of basic services to most vulnerable population, especially as concerns health care for all or education for children caught up in humanitarian crises
  • strengthen fragile communities’ preparedness for crises, such as mass displacements of people, or recurrent food or climate-related crises.

This assistance is part of the wider EU support provided to the region, including through the ´Team Europe´ contributions to the Coronavirus Global Response, support to the vaccine distribution effort through the COVAX Facility, and other actions providing longer-term support to strengthen fragile health systems.

Background

As part of the EU’s Coronavirus Global Response and its target to make COVID-19 vaccines a global public good, Team Europe provided €2.2 billion to the COVAX Facility.

The COVAX Facility is supporting the delivery of 1.3 billion doses of vaccines to 92 low and middle-income countries by the end of 2021 and has recently decided that up to 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be made available for use in humanitarian contexts.

In addition, the European Commission is providing €100 million in humanitarian assistance to support the rollout of vaccination campaigns in countries in Africa with critical humanitarian needs and fragile health systems.

The EU is a leading, long-standing humanitarian donor in the Sahel and Central Africa, one of the world’s poorest and most fragile regions. In 2020, the EU supported humanitarian interventions in the region with more than €213 million.

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Ebola: Further medical material support for Guinea through EU coordination

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Over the past week, EU-supported shipments of Ebola personal protective equipment, sent by France and Germany, have arrived in Guinea to support the authorities in their Ebola response. The consignments include nearly 43,000 items of protective medical garments and equipment, 96,000 gloves, 850 goggles, laboratory material and PCR testing kits. Earlier on, Belgium delivered 760,000 protective masks. These consignments, coordinated through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, are in response to a request for assistance made at the outset of the outbreak by the Republic of Guinea after the Ebola virus disease resurfaced in the country.  

Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management said: “I thank Belgium, France and Germany for these additional offers of assistance to support hospitals and testing laboratories in epidemics control in Guinea. This coordinated action is a further concrete example of the EU acting together in response to an emergency.”

In addition to this assistance, France has already delivered, also through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, more than 500 protective equipment kits. The EU co-finances up to 75% of the transport costs of assistance deployed through the Mechanism. Further assistance given the by EU includes €3.2 million in funding mobilised to support the health response and patient care.

On 14 February, the Republic of Guinea reported an Ebola outbreak in the country, the first one in the region since the deadly 2013-2016 outbreak.  As of 4 May 2021, 23 Ebola virus disease cases have been notified in the current outbreak– 16 confirmed and 7 probable. The situation continues to be monitored closely. 

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India: EU mobilises an initial €2.2 million in emergency funding for the vulnerable during COVID-19

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Today, the Commission has announced that it will allocate an initial €2.2 million in emergency funding to respond to the drastic surge in COVID-19 cases in India. The funding will support the World Health Organization (WHO) for a 6-month case management of COVID-19 patients, as well as strengthening laboratory capacity for COVID-19 testing.

Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, said: “We are providing additional EU support towards the fight against COVID-19 in India. This comes on top of the generous and swift assistance from EU Member States that stepped up as part of Team Europe to offer critical supplies of oxygen, ventilators and medicines over the last few days. We stand ready to work with the WHO and other partners on the ground to jointly fight this battle at this difficult time – we are stronger together.”

Member States have already mobilised supplies of urgently needed oxygen, ventilators and medicines from Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden to India over the last week via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

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Global Report on Food Crises: acute food insecurity soars to 5-year high

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The number of people facing acute food insecurity and needing urgent life and livelihood-saving assistance has hit a 5-year high in 2020 in countries beset by food crises, according to an annual report launched today by the Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC)

The GNAFC is an international alliance of the EU, the UN, governmental and non-governmental agencies working to tackle food crises together.

The stark warning from the 2021 Global Report on Food Crises reveals that conflict, or economic shocks that are often related to COVID-19 along with extreme weather, are continuing to push millions of people into acute food insecurity.

Report’s key findings

The Global Network Against Food Crises report reveals that at least 155 million people experienced acute food insecurity at crisis or worse levels across 55 countries/territories in 2020.

This is an increase of around 20 million people from the previous year and raises a stark warning about a worrisome trend: acute food insecurity has kept up its relentless rise since 2017 – the first edition of the report.

Of these, around 133,000 people were classified in the most severe phase of acute food insecurity in 2020 in Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Yemen where urgent action was needed to avert widespread death and a collapse of livelihoods.

At least another 28 million people faced emergency level of acute food insecurity in 2020 – meaning they were one step away from starvation – across 38 countries/territories where urgent action saved lives and livelihoods and prevented famine spreading.

39 countries/territories have experienced food crises during the 5 years that the GNAFC has been publishing its annual report. In these countries/territories, the population affected by high levels of acute food insecurity increased from 94 to 147 million people between 2016 and 2020.

Additionally, in the 55 food-crisis countries/territories covered by the report, over 75 million children under 5 were stunted (too short) and over 15 million wasted (too thin) in 2020.

Countries in Africa remained disproportionally affected by acute food insecurity. Close to 98 million people facing acute food insecurity in 2020 – or 2 out of 3 – were on the African continent. But other parts of the world have also not been spared, with countries including Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria and Haiti among the 10 worst food crises last year.  

The key drivers behind rising acute food insecurity in 2020 were:

  • conflict: main driver pushing almost 100 million people into acute food insecurity, up from 77 million in 2019
  • economic shocks – often due to COVID-19 – replaced weather events as the second driver of acute food insecurity both in terms of numbers of people and countries affected (over 40 million people in 17 countries/territories, up from 24 million and 8 countries in 2019)
  • weather extremes (over 15 million people, down from 34 million).

While conflict will remain the major driver of food crises in 2021, COVID-19 and related containment measures and weather extremes will continue to exacerbate acute food insecurity in fragile economies.

Statement from the Global Network Against Food Crises

“One year after the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, the outlook for 2021 and beyond is grim. Conflict, pandemic-related restrictions fuelling economic hardship and the persistent threat of adverse weather conditions will likely continue driving food crises,” said the European Union, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) – founding members of the Global Network -, together with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in a joint statement released with the report.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the fragility of the global food system and the need for more equitable, sustainable and resilient systems to nutritiously and consistently feed 8.5 billion people by 2030. A radical transformation of our agri-food systems is needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”

“The protracted nature of most food crises shows that long-term environmental, social and economic trends compounded by increasing conflict and insecurity are eroding the resilience of agri-food systems. If current trends are not reversed, food crises will increase in frequency and severity”.

To address these challenges the Global Network will step up efforts to promote resilient agri-food systems that are socially, environmentally and economically sustainable, and will support major events this year such as the UN Food Systems Summit, the Convention on Biodiversity, the G20 Summit, the Climate Change Conference, and the Nutrition for Growth Summit. It will also cooperate with the G7 initiative to avert famine.

The Global Network emphasises the need to act urgently and decisively and calls for the international community to mobilise against hunger.

Read the full report and the Global Network’s statement.

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India: EU Civil Protection Mechanism continues to coordinate emergency supplies

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The EU Civil Protection Mechanism continues to coordinate additional EU assistance to India, which is facing a tremendous increase in COVID-19 cases. Last week, the European Union announced the offers of support made by Ireland, Belgium, Romania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Sweden, France, Italy, Austria and Finland with other Member States pooling resources of urgently needed medical supplies for India.

Additional emergency support packages from Czechia, Denmark, Spain, the Netherlands and Germany via the EU Mechanism have since been offered to India. This includes support from:

  • Czechia: 500 oxygen cylinders
  • Denmark: 53 ventilators
  • Spain: 119 oxygen concentrators and 145 ventilators
  • Netherlands: 100 oxygen concentrators, 30,000 vials of antiviral drugs, Remdesivir, and 449 ventilators
  • Germany: 15,000 vials antiviral drugs, 516 ventilators and 1 oxygen generator.

”I am proud to say EU Member States are providing substantial help part of a Team Europe effort to show our solidarity with India at this very difficult time, offering critical oxygen, ventilators and antiviral drugs to our Indian friends. Collective action is the only solution if we want to win our fight against the pandemic,” said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič.

The European Commission’s 24/7 Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) is closely monitoring developments and stands ready to channel further support as required.

The Commission co-finances the transport and coordinates the delivery of assistance.

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EU Civil Protection Mechanism continues to channel further EU assistance to India

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A strengthened EU Civil Protection Mechanism endorsed by European Parliament

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On 27 April, the European Parliament voted for strengthening the European Union’s role in crisis management through a legislative revision of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. This allows for faster and more effective European solidarity operations in response to large-scale emergencies or disasters that affect several countries at the same time.

The EU will have at its disposal additional financial means for civil protection and will strengthen emergency tools such as EU’s rescEU medical reserve of protective equipment. A direct response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this boost to EU Civil Protection will ensure that no EU Member State shall face shortages of personal protective equipment.

On this occasion, Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič, said: “I welcome the European Parliament’s vote. Through this wide-ranging upgrade of EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism, we will be equipped with additional tools to respond to new risks in Europe and the world.”

“The Mechanism will become more agile, more comprehensive and more fit-for-purpose in view of today’s challenges. When the next large-scale crisis strikes, the EU needs to have the tools to respond effectively, including during transboundary crises, affecting multiple Member States and several sectors at the same time,” Lenarčič added. “Reinforcing the EU’s crisis management system comes in direct response to the 27 Members States and the European Parliament’s request for a stronger EU role in emergencies, and strong public support for the European Union to strengthen its disaster management”.

New EU Civil Protection features

Enhanced European response capacities for large-scale crises that overwhelm national response capacities via rescEU:

  • Enabling the Commission to directly procure emergency capacities in cases of urgency where national capacities are overwhelmed. For example, the procurement of equipment to deal with unforeseen emergencies.
  • Offering suitable modes of transport and logistic solutions to Member States, for example, to repatriate EU citizens stranded outside the Union to safety, to transfer medical personnel, medical equipment and therapeutics. The EU finances transport and logistics at 100% rate as part of rescEU capacities.   

Faster European coordination of disaster response:  

  • Strengthening EU’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre – the EU’s hub for crisis management – with enhanced operational, analytical, monitoring, information management and communication capabilities.

Better prevention and preparedness through:

  • Defining Union-wide resilience goals and scenario plans together with Member States;
  • Improving disaster loss data collection to support evidence-based scenario building.

Adequate financial support and greater flexibility to face the realities of an emergency:

  • A significantly enhanced budget with €1.26 billion foreseen under the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework and additional €2.05 billion through the Next Generation EU Recovery Instrument.
  • Reducing unnecessary procedures in responding to an emergency and enhancing the possibilities of managing and implementing the EU budget.  

Eurobarometer – strong citizen support for EU civil protection

In the run-up to the adoption of this Regulation, the Commission gathered citizens’ opinions on EU civil protection in the 27 EU Member States. The survey results show clear support for the EU’s role in crisis management, with 84% of Europeans agreeing that coordinated EU action should be increased to respond more effectively to future disasters and crises. More than 9 in 10 Europeans agree that their country should provide help when a disaster strikes in another EU country that is too big to deal with on their own, a clear sign of support for EU solidarity.

Background

A changing risk landscape in Europe and in the world calls for  strengthened emergency management system. The lessons learnt resulting from the current pandemic emphasise, the need to better anticipate and prepare for the impacts of future emergencies that can quickly evolve into complex large-scale societal crises with multiple cascading effects in different areas.

With climate change-induced disaster risks on the rise and evolving security threats, the EU is increasingly exposed to the threat of large-scale crises. In parallel, growing urbanisation, digitalisation and cross-sectoral interdependence exacerbate existing and create new vulnerabilities. Against this backdrop, the new Union Civil Protection Mechanism puts in place a more ambitious and wide-ranging crisis management system within the EU.

The Commission proposed the updated legislation on 2 June 2020 and a final agreement by the legislators was reached in February 2021, followed by the formal adoption by the Parliament on 26 April 2021 and the Council on 10 May 2021. The Regulation is expected to enter into force in mid-May this year.

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Coronavirus: EU channels critical support to India via EU Civil Protection Mechanism

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A shipment of urgently needed oxygen, medicine and equipment will be delivered over the coming days by EU Member States to India, following the country’s request for support through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, which is coordinated by the Emergency Response Coordination Centre of the European Commission.

The offers of support from EU Member States via the Mechanism currently include:

  • Ireland: 700 oxygen concentrators, 1 oxygen generator, 365 ventilators
  • Belgium: 9,000 doses of antiviral medicines Remdesivir
  • Romania: 80 oxygen concentrators and 75 oxygen cylinders
  • Luxembourg: 58 ventilators
  • Portugal: 5,503 vials of Remdesivir; 20,000 litres of oxygen per week
  • Sweden: 120 ventilators.

This support has been made in line with the coordinated effort by EU Member States currently underway to pool their resources in responding rapidly to tackle the alarming epidemiological situation in India.

More EU support from other Member States is expected to be given in the coming days, including from France and Germany.

Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management, said: “The EU stands in full solidarity with the Indian people and is ready to do our utmost to support them at this critical time. I would like to thank our Member States that came in numerously with generous offers of help, showing that the EU is a trusted partner and a friend at times of need. The reach of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism goes well beyond the EU’s borders. Our Emergency Response Coordination Centre is facilitating the logistical arrangements and the EU will cover the brunt of the transport costs.”

Background

The objective of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism is to strengthen cooperation between the EU Member States and 6 Participating States in the field of civil protection to improve prevention, preparedness and response to disasters.

When the scale of an emergency overwhelms the response capabilities of a country, it can request assistance via the Mechanism. Through the Mechanism, the European Commission plays a key role in coordinating the response to disasters in Europe and beyond and contributes to at least 75% of the transport and/or operational costs of deployments.

Following a request for assistance through the Mechanism, the Emergency Response Coordination Centre mobilises assistance or expertise.

The Centre monitors events around the globe 24/7 and ensures rapid deployment of emergency support through a direct link with national civil protection authorities. Specialised teams and equipment, such as forest firefighting planes, search and rescue, and medical teams can be mobilised at short notice for deployments inside and outside Europe.

Any country in the world, but also the United Nations and its agencies or a relevant international organisation, can call on the EU Civil Protection Mechanism for help. In 2020, the Mechanism was activated more than 90 times. For example, to respond to the coronavirus pandemic; the explosion in Beirut in Lebanon; floods in Ukraine, Niger and Sudan; the earthquake in Croatia; and tropical cyclones in Latin America and Asia.

EU and COVAX

Team Europe is committed to the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and its health, social, economic, humanitarian, security and political impacts. With this approach, the EU is showing leadership, responsibility and solidarity with those most affected by the pandemic.

Team Europe remains at the forefront of global efforts to ensure international access to vaccines, with a €2.47 billion contribution to the COVAX initiative. Till date, over €40.5 million doses of vaccine have been delivered to more than 100 countries worldwide.

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EU allocates €149 million in humanitarian aid to the Greater Horn of Africa region

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As humanitarian needs increase in the Horn of Africa, the Commission has announced today new funding of €149 million in aid for the wider region in 2021.

Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, said: “During the past year, the Greater Horn of Africa countries, in addition to being affected by conflict and displacement, have also been facing the so-called triple threat of desert locust infestation, the impact of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. With millions in need of urgent assistance in the region, the EU is ensuring that emergency lifesaving support, such as food, nutrition, health and protection, reaches those in need.”

The funding announced today will support humanitarian projects in Djibouti (€500,000), Kenya (€14 million), Somalia (€42.5 million), Sudan (€52 million) and Uganda (€32 million). In addition, €8 million is allocated to the efforts against the Desert Locust infestation.

The EU has already announced new humanitarian funding of €53.7 million for Ethiopia and €43.5 million for South Sudan during the recent visit of Commissioner Lenarčič to these countries.

Of the total funds allocated across the region, around €30 million will be going to projects providing education to children caught up in humanitarian crises.

Background

Around 11.5 million people are displaced in the Greater Horn of Africa region, of whom more than 4 million are refugees.

In Sudan, there are more than 13.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, including 1 million registered asylum-seekers and refugees, while more than 9 million people require food assistance. Since November 2020, the Tigray conflict in neighbouring Ethiopia and the border tension around the agricultural fertile land of Al Fashaga presents an additional risk for the fragile political transition and has already resulted in thousands of refugees fleeing the Tigray region, and other regions of Ethiopia.

In Uganda, almost 4 million Ugandan nationals and 1.4 million refugees are in need of humanitarian support. Economic hardship, further exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis, is undermining the country’s commitment to a progressive policy towards refugees.

The Desert Locust is considered the most destructive migratory pest in the world. Crop and food losses in affected areas can be enormous, generating direct dramatic negative impacts on agriculture and livelihoods. With over 35 million people in the region already food insecure, the desert locust upsurge remains an unprecedented threat to food security. In their updated appeal for 2021, FAO estimates that still 3.3 million people are at risk of food insecurity due to the Desert Locust in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan.